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Citi is launching a new online travel booking platform that allows customers to buy travel with cash or Citi ThankYou points. The portal is called Citi Travel with Booking.com and will be managed by the online travel agency. This will replace the existing booking platform, which until this new version is launched, is run by another different booking partner and allows reservations to be made until the end of the year only.
The new booking platform is expected to launch by fall, and it's great news for Citi ThankYou points fans that want to earn and redeem points for travel and other merchandise in time for the holidays or beyond.
What to know about Citi’s new, upcoming travel portal
1. You can book flights, hotels and car rentals
The booking portal allows you to book all kinds of travel through the Citi website or mobile app. It includes car rentals, airlines and hotels (1.4 million hotels, to be exact, via Booking.com).
This can be a great way for you to pay for an upcoming trip with cash or to use your Citi ThankYou points to redeem for free or reduced-cost travel. Note that when redeeming your points for airline travel, you are eligible to earn frequent flyer miles. This is a smart money move to take advantage of your points while also growing your mileage balance.
However, when using Citi ThankYou points for hotel stays, you’re not eligible for earning hotel loyalty points or taking advantage of elite status benefits. This is because these hotel stays aren't booked directly through the hotel. Most hotel loyalty programs don’t provide points or perks when booking through third-party websites (including Booking.com, which is running this new Citi Travel platform).
Still, booking hotels via the Citi Travel portal is a good opportunity to redeem points for a stay at a hotel where you don’t have status or in a destination where you can’t earn or take advantage of status.
The existing portal offers overnight cruises, but the new portal won't offer that option at the launch date. Day cruises are still available through the “attractions” tab in the new portal.
2. You can pay with points, cash or a combination
The new portal shows 1.4 million hotel reservation options because of its partnership with Booking.com. Plus, you can continue to pay entirely in cash, entirely in points or with a mix of cash and points.
This provides greater value for your points since you don't have to wait until you have enough for a particular redemption. Instead, you can use a combination and put any number of points in your account immediately to work for you.
3. You'll earn bonus points when booking
Between now and Dec. 31, 2023, new and existing customers who have cards like the Citi Prestige® Card, Citi Premier® Card, ThankYou Preferred and Citi Rewards+® Card will be able to score bonus points for their travel reservations. Citi Prestige® Card and Citi Premier® Card members can earn 10x points when paying for travel (not when redeeming points), while ThankYou Preferred and Citi Rewards+® Card members earn 5x points when using their cards for travel through this booking portal.
4. It pays to understand how reservations work
When making a reservation through an online travel agency like Booking.com (even under the Citi ThankYou rewards branding), you’ll have to contact the agency about any travel changes or disruptions. It is the travel agency that handles changes instead of the airlines, hotels and other travel partners that you booked travel with.
Citi says that their agents are available 24/7, and that there will be a dedicated Booking.com-backed customer support team for Citi cardholders. Still, some people may find it frustrating that they cannot deal directly with the travel provider since this is a third-party travel agency reservation. Just be aware of this limitation when making any reservation through an online travel agency.
If you want to change or cancel a flight, for example, you’ll have to contact the Citi-dedicated customer service, not the airline.
5. You can redeem points for other purchases, too
A new way to earn and redeem Citi ThankYou points
This new portal provides a new option for earning and redeeming Citi ThankYou points with the assistance of Booking.com. The goal is to make it easier to benefit from your points and rack up more when using your Citi credit cards. The more options the better, we say. When you know the restrictions for using your points and can benefit from the perks of using them, Citi ThankYou points offer exceptional value.
The information related to Citi Prestige® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card